Decrease Spending: Increase Cheer!
For most of us, December is overflowing with family gatherings, work parties, gift-giving and…stress! Throughout the month we will focus our resources on ways to reduce seasonal anxiety while increasing holiday cheer. We believe a little preparation and organization goes a long way in making you feel in control of finances, when other things in your life may feel chaotic.
This month we will gift you with resources to help you budget your holiday expenses, while balancing an overscheduled season. You don’t have to deplete your savings this holiday season in order for it to be memorable. Even though you might feel the outside pressure to buy more during the season of giving, you do have the power to prioritize spending—make your traditions less about things and more about the people you love.
Practical Money Skills has a great article that suggests the first step to enjoying a more affordable holiday is setting a realistic holiday budget and sticking to it. Here are a few ways they give for surviving the season:
Set Your Budget: The best place to start when making a holiday budget is to look at your spending during last year's holiday season. Next, make a list of the holiday purchases and events you plan to spend money on this year. Consider all of your major spending categories: gifts, entertaining, meals, and travel–then estimate how much you can afford to spend in each category.
Get Creative: One great way to save money and wow friends and families is to get creative. Store-bought gifts are great, but homemade gift are often more meaningful and most recipients truly appreciate your time and effort.
Join Together: Instead of excessively spending on each other this year, join together with family members to help those who may be less fortunate. This is a great way to get extended families together for the holidays, while cutting back all those little gifts that add up quickly.
Entertain for Less: Holidays are a wonderful time to entertain, but a little planning and budgeting can help you avoid financial headaches. Also, consider hosting potlucks instead of huge holiday meals. Potlucks allow your guests to get to share what food traditions are important to them, while cutting back a major expense for you.
We know that the holidays are very special time of year for families; however, it is also perfectly normal to admit you are simultaneously stressed by the expenses, the busy schedule, the crowds, and distant family members in your home while you are balancing it all. Knowing your spending goals long beforehand will help you stay on track financially as the season heats up.
Check out the following links for more great online resources for consumers.
Before Giving to a Charity: FTC guide to researching charities before donating
Gift Cards: FTC article on purchasing and using gift cards this season
Shopping Tips: FTC article on comparison shopping to find the best deals
Shopping Online: FTC guide to safe shopping online
Comparing Products Online: FTC guide to finding the best deals online
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This Consumer Tip and MontanaLawHelp.org is a joint project of Montana's Credit Unions and Montana Legal Services Association. MontanaLawHelp.org has information about consumer issues, housing, money management, and more.